BREAKING: Hickenlooper/Polis Deal Averts Fracking Ballot Measures

UPDATE #4: Sen. Mark Udall weighs in with congratulations:

Colorado has served as a model for the nation on finding the right balance between protecting our clean air and water, safely developing our abundant energy resources, and safeguarding our communities and our public health. I have been proud to champion efforts to strike that balance by bringing together Democrats, Republicans, the oil and gas industry, conservationists, and citizen groups.

From the beginning, I have pressed everyone involved to find a balanced way forward and to work toward a collaborative solution. I am proud this engagement yielded results, and I applaud Governor Hickenlooper and Congressman Polis for reaching this compromise. 

—–

UPDATE #3: Conservation Colorado's statement:

Conservation Colorado believes local governments have a historical right and responsibility to protect the public health and environment of their communities from land use impacts of industrial activities like drilling and fracking. We applaud Congressman Polis’ strong advocacy for his constituents and on behalf of many other Coloradans concerned over the impacts of oil and gas drilling on Colorado communities.

We congratulate Congressman Polis and Governor Hickenlooper for working diligently to bring this complicated issue to a good public policy result. No Coloradan should have to wake up and see a drilling rig over their back fence and worry that their families health or quality of life will be adversely impacted.

—–

UPDATE #2: Gov. John Hickenlooper's statement announcing the new task force to recommend legislation for 2015:

“Colorado is fortunate to have an abundance of energy resources, and we have an obligation to develop them in a way that is safe for our residents, supports jobs and the economy, respects private property rights and protects our environment,” Hickenlooper said.
 
“The work of this task force will provide an alternative to ballot initiatives that, if successful, would have regulated the oil and gas industry through the rigidity of Constitutional amendments and posed a significant threat to Colorado’s economy. This approach will put the matter in the hands of a balanced group of thoughtful community leaders, business representatives and citizens who can advise the legislature and the executive branch on the best path forward.”

…Hickenlooper expressed confidence in Colorado’s existing set of regulations as developed and enforced by the COGCC and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Those agencies have undertaken four major rulemakings addressing oil and gas development since 2011. That included a year-long public process to develop a new setback standard, which took effect last year.

“Recognizing the value of energy and our environment, and managing that balance, can be difficult but it’s something we’ve always been able to do in Colorado. Collectively, we have one of the strongest regulatory approaches in the country, and we will continue to build on that record to protect our world-class environment while providing the flexibility necessary to develop our important energy resources,” Hickenlooper said.

—–

Rep. Jared Polis speaks at a press conference with Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Rep. Jared Polis speaks at a press conference with Gov. John Hickenlooper.

UPDATE: Full statement from Rep. Jared Polis after the jump. Excerpt:

In 2011 I visited with concerned parents in Erie who were distressed over plans to locate several fracking rigs next to Red Hawk Elementary School. They asked for my help, and I immediately called upon the operators to reconsider the location of those wells. For weeks I sent letters, I had conference calls with oil and gas executives and I plead with them to not move forward with these ill advised plans to place fracking rigs dangerously close to children's elementary school. In the end my pleas and the pleas of these concerned parents for reasonable setbacks from their kids elementary school fell on deaf ears. I told those parents and my constituents that I would not give up the fight, that I would continue pushing for responsible regulations that protect them and I have devoted a considerable amount of my time doing just that ever since.

I believe today's announcement is a victory for the people of Colorado and the movement to enact sensible fracking regulations. I know for many today's announcement will not go far enough, but I believe it's just the beginning of next chapter.

—–

lion-lamb

9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman reports, a press conference at the Colorado Capitol is getting underway now:

Environmentalists and the governor's office struck a last-minute deal to withdraw all proposed ballot initiatives to restrict fracking for the November election, defusing a political time bomb that had driven a wedge between liberal and pro-business Democrats…

The deal does include some immediate concessions to environmentalists to avoid the Polis-backed initiatives.

The governor's office has agreed to withdraw the state from a lawsuit against Longmont over the city's voter-enacted ban on fracking.

In addition, the governor has committed to more rigorously enforce a 1000-foot setback, the distance that must separate oil and gas drilling from existing buildings.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

Polis has also requested that the industry withdraw two of its own initiatives: Initiative 121, which stipulates that communities that limit oil and gas activity would be prohibited from receiving state severance tax revenues from oil and gas development; and Initiative 137, which would require the fiscal impact of each initiative be estimated earlier in the process and included in the Colorado Blue Book.

Backers of those initiatives submitted signatures ahead of Monday’s deadline but may be willing to drop them before the ballot is finalized in September.

At first blush, it does appear Rep. Jared Polis has extracted significant concessions from Gov. John Hickenlooper as part of this agreement–withdrawing the state from the suit over Longmont's fracking moratorium, and better enforcement of setbacks between drilling and other developments like homes and schools. Bigger setbacks for drilling was one of the two ballot measures Polis was working on. Polling from supporters of Polis' ballot measures showed they had a solid and enduring chance–even after opponents' arguments against–of passing this November. Today's agreement allows Polis and conservationists to claim victory without that long and costly ballot fight, which some Democrats worried could be divisive for the general election.

Instead, Polis comes out a winner with tangible deliverables resulting from his effort–and Hickenlooper shows his remarkable knack for making the lion lay down with the lamb yet again. We'll update after today's press conference with more coverage and details.

STATEMENT FROM REP. JARED POLIS

Today, I stood with Governor Hickenlooper and announced several solid steps forward to deal with the impacts of oil and gas on local communities. My constituents have been vocal in their concerns of oil and gas development taking place too close to where they live work and play- I have heard their call and done everything in my power to bring their legitimate concerns forward. In 2011 I visited with concerned parents in Erie who were distressed over plans to locate several fracking rigs next to Red Hawk Elementary School. They asked for my help, and I immediately called upon the operators to reconsider the location of those wells. For weeks I sent letters, I had conference calls with oil and gas executives and I plead with them to not move forward with these ill advised plans to place fracking rigs dangerously close to children's elementary school. In the end my pleas and the pleas of these concerned parents for reasonable setbacks from their kids elementary school fell on deaf ears. I told those parents and my constituents that I would not give up the fight, that I would continue pushing for responsible regulations that protect them and I have devoted a considerable amount of my time doing just that ever since.

I believe today's announcement is a victory for the people of Colorado and the movement to enact sensible fracking regulations. I know for many today's announcement will not go far enough, but I believe it's just the beginning of next chapter. For the first time in this fight, citizens will have a seat at the negotiating table. They will be able to negotiate directly to protect their property rights, homes values, clean water, and air quality with the oil and gas industry. The Task Force will be co-chaired by La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt who began her career as a community organizer in Durango for Western Colorado Congress, then went on to found Earthworks' Oil & Gas Accountability Project. Gwen now serves as a County Commissioner for La Plata County and has experienced first hand the challenges of the current laws as it pertains to local control of oil and gas.

I am thrilled that in an act of good faith the Governor has called upon the COGCC to dismiss the pending lawsuit against Longmont. The Governor has reiterated his commitment to enforcing all current laws and regulations, including a setback rule that states that operators must make every effort to place wells at least 1,000 ft from occupied structures.

These immediate steps give me great hope that together we will forge a solution that works for all of Colorado. Given my renewed hope that my constituents will be able to shape the statewide fracking policy through the legislative process as soon as the next legislative session, I am withdrawing my financial support for the proposed ballot initiatives. To be clear, I am not giving up this fight, I will continue to push for greater health and safety for my constituents through every avenue available to me. My sincere hope is that the legislature will heed the concerns of thousands of Coloradans that have demanded reasonable safeguards from oil and gas development. I want to thank all the community organizers that have worked tirelessly to bring their concerns to the forefront and have demanded action on this important issue. There is still a great amount of work to be done, but today represents real progress.

58 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. BoulderDem says:

    Well done, Jared, Hick, and everyone involved in brokering this temporary cease fire. Best outcome I could imagine. I actually hope the industry goes forward with their initiatives, everyone lines up agianst them, and they get crushed. That will help the power imbalance as well.

    • Half Glass FullHalf Glass Full says:

      I think this makes it even harder for Beauprez to argue that Hickenlooper deserves to be defeated for a second term. Hickenlooper has been doing a great job LEADING this state, be it in responding to the flood emergency, or in responding to fracking. The only times he's faltered has been when he's tried to be too nice to everyone, such as with the sheriffs recently. The economy is doing great, and Beauprez really can't point to any major problem Hickenlooper's failed to deal with effectively.

      • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

        Hickenlooper has been doing a great job LEADING this state….in responding to fracking.

        Sorry, no. He has done a terrible job on this subject. Anything else he may have accomplished DOES NOT make this better. Hick did not, for example, lead on the new methane rules. That was an industry initiative brought on by fear of the EPA. Hick almost screwed it up by pulling the trigger to soon. He was responding to the the whupping he and the industry got at the hands of the front range towns and cities and jumped the gun on announcing his "deal". He seriously pissed off COGA and the CPA in doing so.

        IMHO, Hick survives in spite of himself…. 

  2. ct says:

    I would like Rep. Polis to post his explanation for all this.  Given the state legislature's well-demonstrated ability to get nothing done on this issue and to punt after much sturm und drang, what exactly is the reason that anyone concerned about this activity thinks this will be different now?  What happens if the depressed citizens that just signed petitions and are currently being fracked, stay home and the Legislature flips?  Do we citizens really believe that Frank McNulty is going to take recommendations from a 'Blue Ribbon' panel if they are not first vetted and approved by COGA? Citizens should keep organizing to ensure that massive amounts of public pressure and scrutiny are brought to bear at each and every stage of the panel.  Sunlight disinfects.  

    • BoulderDem says:

      Jared can speak for himself (and he sometimes does that very thing on this blog), but I'd suggest if the legislative R's stonewall a well thought out commission recommendation, Jared and friends are in a much better political situation to pass something very strong in 2015 or 2016. If the initiatives had failed this year, it would have been an utter disaster, and that was a distinct possibility.

      • ct says:

        It won't be so orderly.  People facing the prospects of dozens of wells going in next to their kids' school and playground aren't going to just sit back and shut up at this point.  We'll see how the 'blue ribbon' panel is constituted, and I will bite my tongue until then, at least.  The Colorado legislature, under Dem control, has not even been able to get mandatory minimum fines for violations or severance taxes on par with Wyoming (yes, that Wyoming) so I consider my skepticism well founded.  (I also think that many politicians are as susceptible as the public, if not more so, to that copious oil and gas cash suddenly freed up).    

        • ct says:

          Can the governor order the COGCC to interpret its regulations differently than what is spelled out, based on an agreement with someone acting as a private citizen/third party (in this case)?  Can someone show me the 1,000ft 'set back' that is anywhere required in the existing COGCC regs?  

          The set back requirement is 500'  Otherwise, to operate within 1,000 ft of a place like a school the COOGCC has to hold a hearing, like they are doing in Greeley before approving development. Other than that, the regs talk of 'new and enhanced measures' to mitigate impacts within 1,000 ft–but no 'set back. 

          The 500' requirement that is in effect as a codied rule today–which be assured is what industry will push for, the minimum–will thus remain below what many other states and local jurisdictions allow.  And COGA is on record raising concerns and misivings about even the existing requirement (500' set back).

          So what are the reassurances again? 

           

          • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

            So, ct….do you think Hick will pick you or I to sit on this panel?

            • ct says:

              I believe it will be 'limited' to 'reasonable' and 'responsible' Coloradans, which I assume means 'no.'  Hard core pro-oil and gas will be fine.  But anyone that says 'fracking bans are good' or 'Hell no,' won't be allowed.  It will start with the presumption that fracking and drilling and industrialization of whichever places industry wants to get to will be allowed.  The panel will get to think of some things around the edges that make it slightly more palatable to those citizens that are un  lucky enough to have their homes, towns and schools on top of oil and gas.  

              • ct says:

                I also predict that any milquetoast recommendations that comes out of the 'blue ribbon' 'commission' (made up of those the political establishment deems 'reasonable') will be watered down to require very little of industry once it meets the Colorado legislature.  If the R's take the Legislature I predict any such reccs will be tweaked to advantage industry.  If this does fail, and citizens gain try to agitate, expct the same arguments from the D-Denver establishment: oh noes!  You citizens can't organize on your own behalf this year–There's a presidential race!!! Hillary will lose Colorado and the presidency if you bad locals insist on demanding a place at the table!    

  3. OrangeFreeOrangeFree says:

    Good. Keep this process where it belongs – in the hands of the legislature. 

    Now, all the more reason to get out and work to ensure Dems keep control of the State Leg & Governor's mansion so that the GOP can't renege on the deal if they win. 

    • Progressicat says:

      What makes you think the Dems, who have had control of the legislature and the Governor's office for years wouldn't renege if they win?

      • Craig says:

        About the same thing that makes me think the Republicans at any lever ever keep their word.  In short, nothing.  So, please proceed having the Republicans continue to rail against this.  I'm sure that suburban women won't care about this any more than they care about abortion.

      • OrangeFreeOrangeFree says:

        Because Hick isn't stupid. If they don't work something out, I have no doubt the eco-activists would come twice as fast and twice as hard in 2015. 

  4. ModeratusModeratus says:

    It's great news that Colorado's economy is no longer threatened by Jared Polis's reckless ballot initiatives, but please don't portray this as a victory for any Democrat. Polis's convictions are skin deep, and Hickenlooper's party is as much a threat to Colorado's economy as anyone so it doesn't matter what he believes.

    Good luck backing away from your comedy of errors, Democrats. You're still going to lose in November.

    • CaninesCanines says:

      So if Beauprez wins, he's not going to enforce the 1,000-foot setback?

    • denverco says:

      Don't forget the smooth way gardner and coffman backed away from their immigration comedy of errors and gardner on personhood. And now they are being attacked not just from the left but from a very angry right wing base – many are saying that they won't vote for them this November. Of course you did support Gessler, so you are used to losing.

    • BlueCat says:

      Strengthens Hick and all Dems who need a chunk of pro-business moderates in their districtsAvoids clashes between more and less progressive Dem candidates over a divisive issue. Dems like Udall, who oppose the measures are off the hook. Won't need to piss off some of their base and donors over this. Polis seat is safe even if he ticks off some of his Dem constituents.  His pushing it has certainly ticked off the Dem establishment. Takes away Rs ability to attack Dem candidates for being "job killers" over their support of the measures. 

      Of course it's good for Dems in the upcoming election to have these measures off the table and an intra-party bone of contention removed.

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      You're writing better, Moderatus. Still 100% wrong, but more artfully stated.

  5. Urban Snowshoer says:

    While this isn't a perfect solution, by an means, it's better than the alternative.

    Honestly, I think way too many issues in this state are decided in a yes/no fashion at the ballot box, where it's very difficult to make accurate adjustments when needed. As imperfect as the state legislature is, I would much rather have them sort this out, making adjustments as needed, than get stuck with rigid ballot measures–be it for or against fracking–that are very difficult to fix when problems arise.

    • BlueCat says:

      Especially as amendments to the state constitution which, here in Colorado, are easy to add, very tough to remove. As a matter of principle I won't vote for any more amendments that further burden government with more enshrined specific formulas. I don't care what it is. We have too many already. 

  6. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    We  discussed these initiatives endlessly on this forum. The only thing we could agree on was that lawyers would get plenty of work litigating both sides, if they passed.

    I'm sad for the volunteers and organizers who worked to get these signatures. Are they really going to be OK with the initiatives not making it onto the ballot?

    The decision not to sue Longmont is a good one, and it should not have had to come to this for Hick to back away from the frack pack.

    What about the other localities? Greeley attempted, and failed, to limit oil and gas development in 1985. Boulder, Lafayette, and Broomfield also passed laws restricting fracking within boundaries. Is Hick still proceeding with those lawsuits? The Coloradoan has some good reporting on the legal ramifications.

    There are still lawsuits out there challenging the right of the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission to regulate, or fail to regulate, O&G production within municipalities.

    I think that the jury is way the heck out on whether this was the best outcome possible, and I agree with ct:

    Citizens should keep organizing to ensure that massive amounts of public pressure and scrutiny are brought to bear at each and every stage of the panel. Sunlight disinfects.

    • The realistThe realist says:

      Yep, the ballot issues are a citizens initiative process, not a process to be controlled by electeds. I'm guessing Hick's a little nervous about polling numbers. Agree – citizens, keep organizing.

      • BoulderDem says:

        Both sides were nervous. It was a crapshoot.

      • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

        I am not completely happy with this turn of events, but it has, as V says below, taken away an advantage for the industry. Colorado was where the industry was going to make a stand, having lost in New York to the courts there. My understanding is the industry has earmarked $50,000,000 to beat the initiatives (88 &89) in Colorado, the state they have always controlled completely (except during Ritters' tenure). The former measure (88) I think was winnable independently, but 89 was fodder for the rhetorical cannons of the API, and would have dragged the 2,000' ft. setback down with it. Losing both would have been a disaster with far reaching ramifications.

        I join with those who seek a better way than unending constitutional changes, and for that reason alone, the initiatives faced an uphill battle from the start. Like ct, this is the first time I have heard of a 1,000 ft. setback. There are a number of questions that remain about this compromise, and I am as skeptical as anyone about promises made by the Oil Boys and their Oily Rent-a-Guv…

         

        My preference would have been to keep 88 alive, but I am not privy to the wheelings and dealings of the chosen few, and I didn't get a vote. The people of Colorado must continue pushing its leaders to restore the importance of Colorados' "natural capital" to its justifiable pre-eminence… its wind, its water, its beauty, and the value of those to its people;,cannot be overestimated.

        Now it is about who we elect to the legislature…

        • The realistThe realist says:

          My senator scored 13 percent on Conservation Colorado's 2014 scorecard, and not likely that we'll ever do better with the current demographics of his senate district. I fully understand the arguments about avoiding more constitutional amendments, and the potentially disastrous effects of so much oil/gas money in this fall's election. But the oil/gas money has been there and will always be there when the industry is "threatened" by the citizens. If environmental voices bargain away needed protections, many people (industry workers, nearby residents, children, etc) pay the price.

           

        • BlueCat says:

          Wise to listen to V who knows more about Colorado political realities than most of us have forgot.

    • BlueCat says:

      I mainly saw signature collectors who appeared to be paid , not local volunteers, though I'm sure there were those, too. 

    • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

      I'm sad for the volunteers and organizers who worked to get these signatures

      My wife and I were both part of that group, and it is just that effort that put enormous presssure on the industry and their water carriers to come to the table. Those who support limits on the O&G juggernaut need to understand this as a victory and another step towards wresting control of our government away from the Oily Boys and their puppets. We must make this issue the focus of the upcoming elections. It is time to vote out the Ray Scotts, Randy Baumgartners, and all the other toadies the industry owns.

      Forget about parties, incumbencies, and any other criteria. We must make the protection of Colorado from the onslaught of drilling and fracking our primary issue. Every candidate must be forced to transparency and held accountable for their allegiance to the purveyors of petroleum pollution. Now is the time to vote out of office any elected that refuses to make our health and well-being their number one priority.

       Sadly…we are stuck with "Frackenlooper" because BWB would be so much worse in every respect, and certainly no improvement insofar as energy policy is concerned.

       

      • BlueCat says:

        Agree about your role on forcing O&G to the table. You definitely helped make the deal happen and it beats the zillion dollar war O&G would have waged. Also good for Hick and Udall who are a lot better for us on all issues than BWB or Gardner. BWB still stuck in whining mode about it even though big O&G is mainly behind the deal. Thanks for your strong effort. In order to get anywhere you always need people pushing farther than where you hope to end up.

        • ct says:

          To be clear, in this case we have yet 'ended up' with very little.  If kicking the can down the road, as thousnds of additional wells are installed, is 'leadership' then I guess we should all be dancing in the streets.  

          • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

            I, personally, will hold off on the dancing. The bullet we have dodged is an impending defeat on ballot initiatives. As a response, every Colorado voter, regardless of political affiliation, needs to understand what it will take for us to protect our homes and our health.

            The Oily Boys rule the roost in Denver because of one thing…money…and lots of it. They sell their lies with a check attached. One of their commercials features an "environmentalist" who works for an oil company. I am sure she has been paid quite well to believe the fairy tale.

            Another talks about a power plant in Florida that uses both solar and natgas power generation and then claims they are equally clean. A bald-faced lie that goes unchallenged because I don't have $20,000,000 to spend on 24/7 advertising…

            Politicians that can afford to turn away from the millions in campaign dollars poured into the system by The Koch brothers and the American Petroleum Institute, are very few and far between. As you say, we cannot rely on politicians to turn the tide in this struggle. This is a grass roots fight with a grass roots solution. The cities and towns of the front range are the key to standing up to this injustice. The focus of organization needs to be within the community of communities. We cannot count on the state to speak for us, no matter who sits in the Governors' chair.

  7. ct says:

    Apparently Colorado just added between 100,000 and 170,000 oil and gas jobs.

    American Petroleum Institute loves them some Blue Ribbon commission…

    “Colorado has some of the strongest oil and gas regulations in the country, and our industry has a history of working collaboratively with state regulators and local communities to protect the environment while promoting economic growth: to the tune of 200,000 jobs already supported by responsible energy production,” said API President and CEO Jack Gerard.

    I guess to show us citizens how much we can trust them in this bright new reality, Jack figured he'd just tell a whopper right off the bat.  

  8. observe says:

    In the press conference photo, no label of who is in it other than Polis and Hickenlooper. The guy to Hick's right….wow, what a sourpuss. Who is he? Guy looks eternally angry. And the lady on far left, well, not far off either.

    Come on people, if this is good, smile!

  9. VoyageurVoyageur says:

    Actually, most Democrats are very happy to see the only issue keeping us from cleaning your right-wing clock removed from the ballotsmiley

  10. Advocate says:

    Task Force, Blue Ribbon Committee/Commission are terms that make a certain body part twitch when I see them touted as a way to reach a compromise with citizens and groups opposed to a certain industry…and this case Govenor's…positions. The make up of the committee…if you have a definite 6 members who are going to vote industry's way no matter what, why don't you have 6 members who are just as strongly advocated for control of fracking by local entities?  Why the weasly term "respected Coloradans"? What the hell does that even mean? And  there is no guarantee the 6 local officials and citizens are going to be able to stand up to industry at the table to negotiate. 

     

    Bottom line? Unless there is a clear grant of authority to local governmental entities to full regulate oil and gas activities to protect human health and the environment, we will still end up with state preemption. And the Govenor has shown clearly that he is in the pockets of his former employer with words and deeds. 

    Color me skeptical. And what should be an essential item on the table is …

    What happens to the towns and counties and cities when the bust occurs…because it always does? Will industry have to have deposited substantial and sufficient funds to deal with the clean up and restoration? Or will we have a Superfund type of industry weaseling out of cleanup, and the chasing of responsible parties in the courts. Yeah,that has worked out REALLY well with Superfund litigation…

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      Pueblo's smelter sites got designated as Superfund cleanup sites – after fifty years of constant lead, arsenic and other contaminants into air, water, and soil. How many cases of preventable cancer, respiratory disease? How many preventable birth defects?

      So yes, Pueblo's economy has recovered from decline in steel production, and has diversified to be an arts and cultural destination,now that the skies aren't dirty grey anymore…

      But the cost in human terms has been way too high…

  11. Urban Snowshoer says:

    Advocate wrote:

    What happens to the towns and counties and cities when the bust occurs…because it always does? Will industry have to have deposited substantial and sufficient funds to deal with the clean up and restoration? Or will we have a Superfund type of industry weaseling out of cleanup, and the chasing of responsible parties in the courts. Yeah,that has worked out REALLY well with Superfund litigation.

    I guess that depends on how well the economy is diversified. When the oil and gas market crashed in the 1980's it had a major impact on Denver, not just the towns cities near the fields. The economy is probably  more diversified  now but a crash could still have noticeable consequences, especially on a local level. 

     

     

    • Advocate says:

      Given the tremendous expansion, both in numbers and geography impacted, of the oil and gas operatiions, I think the impacts will be much greater than the 80s bursting of the bubble. 

  12. Sunmusing says:

    Sold out once again…ya just can't trust any fucking body nowadays…

  13. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    POLS – bachsanab1 is a spammer linking to a porn site. ^^^^^^^^ Get rid of it. I've sent 2 discreet emails.

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